HP EliteBook 8440w Core i7 Notebook Review

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User Experience

So, here's what's most interesting about this EliteBook. From the moment you open it, you know you're playing with a professional machine, but it never really makes you feel as if you're using a "workstation." That word has a certain connotation to it, and most people in the consumer realm view it negatively. They generally assume that it's less stylish and more expensive that it should be. After all, companies can charge corporations loads for a "workstation" and they'll never feel the pinch, right?

HP has done an excellent job of disguising the "workstation" feel, yet still keeping the internals robust. There's no question that this machine is more than capable of handling typical workstation duties, but it's also well equipped to handle off-the-job tasks as well thanks to the Core i7 processor. That CPU, however, leads to the machine getting quite warm underneath after around a half-hour of "normal" use, including just Web browsing and listening to music. Not too shocking given the power within, but we figured that you would want to know.

We've already discussed our appreciation of the lightweight build, and the fact that it's rugged as well is just icing on the cake. But actually using the EliteBook 8440w is supremely satisfying. Bootup speeds are quick, applications launch in a flash, and overall, the machine handled regular chores like surfing the Web, watching 1080p video and even some light duty gaming very well.

In other words, you're free to use the 8440w as both your personal machine and your work machine, which cannot be said for every mobile workstation. We also found the spill-resistant keyboard to be extremely consumer friendly, and it's actually one of our favorite keyboards to date. There's no "chicklet" layout, but the traditional design coupled with the high-travel keys really impressed us. The full-size nature means that we were never cramped, and the assuring travel helped us to type away without having to worry over typographical errors or missed keys.

The trackpad was also a joy to use. The texture was perfect, and the response was also seamless. Our only complaint is this: the trackpad surface should be larger given the ample space available on the palm rest. We also think that the multi-touch gestures, which are supported via a software toggle, should be on by default. We overlooked them initially because they're flipped off from the factory. Once we did toggle them on, they worked well, and we were able to navigate easily around the screen by just gesturing with our hands instead of having to use a click button + trackpad.

We can't help but mention that the left/right trackpad buttons below the trackpad were the best we've ever used on a notebook, hands-down. Both have an extreme amount of travel, and while some will surely feel they depress too far, we loved it. There's no cheap "click," just a long, satisfying "thud" when your key hits the bottom. It's hard to explain, and even harder to compare, since we've never seen a trackpad button configuration like this before.

So, it's almost all positives, but one thing did let us down: the display. The 1600x900 resolution was perfect for the 14" panel, and the matte finish was a very welcome change from the glossy finish that we see on most notebooks. But the viewing angles were just terrible, and overall color sharpness/brightness weren't up to par. It also had a surprising amount of ghosting, due to subpar response times. Now, this machine isn't exactly built for multi-media playback, so we can't come down too hard on this one point, but it's the one primary problem that keeps this from being the ultimate "crossover" machine (workstation/consumer). You won't want to watch a DVD on this thing from an angle, that's for sure, but it's more than capable of displaying your latest CAD project to you and you alone.

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